Redesigning Detroit: Replacing a Downtown Flagship

Redesigning Detroit

Replacing a Downtown Flagship

by Stanley Collyer

 redesigning detroit - dropboxWinning entry by Davide Marchetti and Erin Pellegrino

The motto for the Redesigning Detroit competition might have been: ‘If you tear down a building, replace it with something better.’ Still, in the case of the once-existing Hudson’s department store, and the memories it invoked in the public consciousness, coming up with a viable replacement solution represents a real challenge. Of all rustbelt cities, Detroit represents a special case. The loss of over 1.2 million residents resulting from the decline of manufacturing after the 1960s left the city in a shambles, visually as well as financially. Hudson’s anchor in the downtown core was just one of many institutions which fell victim to the wrecking ball. But as a retail magnet in the 1930s to the early 1950s, among the country’s major department stores it was only second to Macy’s in size. Thus, as a symbol, its disappearance had to reinforce the idea of decline in the public mind. Similar to the rebuilding of Ground Zero in New York, a new iconic structure on the former site of Hudson’s could signal a glimmer of hope for the city’s future.


Absolutely Amazing: A High-rise Competition Thrusts a Canadian Suburb into the International Limelight

Absolutely Amazing

A High-rise Competition Thrusts a Canadian Suburb into the

International Limelight   

by John Bentley Mays

 absolute-towers- mad-tomarban-4Completed towers (photo ©TomArban)

From Hans Scharoun’s Romeo and Julia high-rises in Stuttgart to the World Trade Towers in New York, the interplay between two high-rises has always provided a fascinating challenge for architects. Such an opportunity presented itself with The Absolute Towers competition in Mississauga, Ontario, announced in November, 2006, which drew ninety-two entries from around the world. Six entries were shortlisted for a second stage, and the winning design by a young Chinese firm, MAD was announced on March 28, 2007. The project was recently completed, and the following article by John Bentley Mays, which appeared in Canadian Architect (August 2013), recounts much of the circumstances surrounding the selection process by an international jury.  -Ed


Six years ago, when Yansong Ma’s design for the first lyrically sculptural, curvaceous Absolute World condominium tower was unveiled, some critics predicted the project would never be built at its intended location, an important crossroads in the rapidly growing Toronto edge city of Mississauga—or anywhere else. According to the naysayers, the technical hurdles involved in raising a structure this unconventional in shape would prove insurmountable. Even if someone figured out a way to put it up, they argued, doing so would be unaffordable for the Toronto-area backers, Fernbrook Homes and Cityzen Development Group. It was further alleged that investors and prospective homeowners would never buy into a residential scheme so dramatically different from standard cereal-box apartment blocks.


Next Stop: The 2013 Burnham Prize Competition

Next Stop

The 2013 Burnham Prize Competition

by Stanley Collyer

Winning entry by Hesam T. Rostami and Bahareh Atash

The NEXT STOP competition challenged designers worldwide to propose a vision for iconic, functional and sustainable stations for Chicago’s planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. It attracted forty-two entries representing design teams from 14 countries. Each competition entry includeed a station prototype and variations for three neighborhoods—the Loop, Bucktown-Logan Square and Pilsen.




Why Stop

Why Stop


Imagining the South Coast Rail


by Kim Poliquin

2011rail 155-winner-1
Winning entry by Emer O'Daly

What would make you stop? A glowing greenhouse? A rolling theater? Or how about a super pier? During the summer of 2011 SHIFTboston challenged architects, urban designers, designers and landscape architects — professionals and students — to visualize new destinations along the proposed South Coast Rail extension, a new rail line that will connect Boston to Taunton, New Bedford, and Fall River, Massachusetts.




Curbside Action at the New Museum: The IDEAS CITY StreetFest Tenting Competition

Curbside Action at the New Museum

The IDEAS CITY StreetFest Tenting Competition

by Stanley Collyer

03 nm foni benoit pailley 2013 9411 
Winning entry by DavidsonRafailidis (photos of completed project courtesy of DavidsonRafailidis)

New York is no stranger to design competitions for smaller projects, especially where the focus is on its streets. Among some of those, either proposed or realized, were the recent Urban Shed competition, protecting pedestrians on the sidewalks from falling debris; and, going back almost two decades, the Urban Outhouse competition. As street fairs are pretty commonplace in New York, it would seem only logical that an ideas competition for a temporary “tent” structure in front of New York’s New Museum would also generate a lot of interest. As part of the IDEAS CITY Festival during the first week in May, this year’s event included one hundred independent project and public events occupying over a square block around the New Museum. Inventors, small business owners, artists, ecologists and activists shared their products and ideas, demonstrating the value of Untapped Capital—the Festival’s current theme.


Transforming the Bridge: 2012 Cleveland Design Competition

Transforming the Bridge

2012 Cleveland Design Competition

by Stanley Collyer


First Place Entry by Archilier Architecture
All images courtesy Cleveland Design Competition

Preservation and re-use of old buildings has long been a major focus of our communities. But until recently, those same communities have regarded yesterday’s infrastructure—our railroad heritage in particular—as something to be either ignored or even erased from the urban fabric. At best, those previous rail beds have been converted into hiking and bike trails. Communities now have begun to recognize that some of these abandoned rail structures can be turned into public amenities. The High Line in New York City is certainly one of the best examples; but other projects, such as the recent conversion of Louisville’s Big Four Bridge to a walkway/bikeway across the Ohio River at Louisville, show how rapidly old perceptions regarding these structures can change.




A Cultural Anchor in Wine Country: The UC Davis Art Museum Competition

A Cultural Anchor in Wine Country

The UC Davis Art Museum Competition

by Larry Gordon

Winning entry by SO-IL (Photos: ©Regents of the University of California, Davis)

The University of California at Davis is a sprawling, well-regarded campus that is probably best known for its contributions to agricultural research that aids the nearby big farms in the Central Valley and growers worldwide. Not as widely known is that UC Davis has a strong arts program and a large art collection, particularly of prints, watercolors and ceramics. For example, contemporary painter Wayne Thiebaud  (creator of those lusciously bright paintings of cakes, lollipops and farm landscapes) taught there and has donated many of his own and others' work to the university. The school also has a trove of Old Masters' prints from the 17th through 19th Century.




The Next Generation Container Port (NGCP) Challenge

The Next Generation Container Port (NGCP) Challenge

by Olha Romaniuk

Winning entry

A former colonial trading hub, and now one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore’s maritime tradition has always been a focal point of its economic life. But having only 274 square miles to accommodate 5.4 million inhabitants, the country faces a scarcity of land for residential as well as commercial development. If Singapore hopes to compete with other large port facilities in East Asia, most notably those in China and Japan, developing a long-term plan for port expansion had to be a high priority for its government. By establishing the Maritime and Port Authority in 1996, the country took an important first step toward solving this problem.



In Ramallah, the Focus is on Architecture: The Qattan Foundation Cultural Centre Competition

In Ramallah, a Focus on Architecture

The Qattan Foundation Cultural Centre Competition

By Stanley Collyer

Winning entry by Donaire Arquitectos

On 2 July 2012, the A.M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) launched an invited competition for the design of a new cultural and education center in Ramallah, Palestine. As a U.K.-based non-profit, which has focused on educational issues with emphasis on the Middle East, the Foundation’s Ramallah center has been located in an existing 80-year-old building for the past thirteen years, but feels that future demand for its services will require substantial expansion. By staging a competition for the new structure, AMQF is also seeking to “raise awareness about the role of built fabric design in improving the quality of urban life in social, cultural and economic terms.”


Commentary on Competitions and the Al Jamea Competition in Particular

Commentary on Competitions & the Al Jamea Competition in Particular

by Paul Spreiregen, FAIA

Paul Spreiregen flying paper airplanes at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C.

There have been numerous international design competitions in the past. They go back centuries, and for both architecture as well as town planning. This is hardly the first. Yet it demonstrates some characteristics of considerable portent.

It is also a long condition of design in general that design predilections of many strains find their ways from their places of origin to places that are far different. Developing countries have long drawn on the design systems, “styles” if you prefer, of more developed neighbors. Even within the same culture borrowing from a distant past for present needs is hardly new. To borrow the old for use in the new has been a characteristic of architecture. It can be seen as a search for identity and order through architectural form.